Your hotel website is your carefully designed lobby on the internet, and like your lobby, it needs people to make it work.
With strong traffic, a website is a powerful asset. It increases brand awareness, adds to the guest experience, and, most importantly, brings in commission-free bookings. It’s the one online space that is entirely under your control.
Here are nine ways to drive more traffic to your property’s website to boost revenue.
Know Your Audience
You’ll never appeal to the entire internet (unless you just post cat videos), and not everyone on the internet is a good fit for your hotel anyway. Gather guest data and analyze it (your property management system can help with this!) to figure out what kind of customers frequent your hotel. Do you attract more solo travelers or families? Vacationers or road warriors?
Pro tip: Not all guest segments are created equal; some are more profitable than others. If a certain segment costs more to bring in the door, i.e., has a high CAC, consider directing your energies elsewhere. Tailor your website to the guest types that make you the most profit.
Pay Attention to SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Important as they are, potential guests aren’t your only audience. You’re also creating content for Google’s search algorithm; the higher you rank in search results, the more likely those guests are to find you.
Luckily, SEO depends on relevance, quality of content, and usability, which are all things potential guests are looking for too. If your site is hard to navigate or takes too long to load, that negatively impacts the user experience and, therefore, your SEO. Make sure your site works on mobile as well as desktop.
When incorporating keywords, take recent travel trends into account. If sleep tourism is picking up, mention your specialty pillow menu. Pay attention to local SEO too, especially if your guests usually come from nearby. As of 2019, 46 percent of Google searches were looking for local information.
An FAQ page and blog are both natural ways to improve your SEO and expand your content, in addition to offering valuable information. A blog is a larger commitment, so make sure you have the time to follow through before you start. Two posts won’t impress visitors or the search algorithm. However, you can update and refresh old posts if you’re feeling stuck or to keep information current.
Lastly, referrals and backlinks from other credible sites signal to the algorithm that your site is useful, boosting your SEO. That’s another reason to consider a blog: people may link to your content there. However, be aware that links from sites irrelevant to your industry or paid links may drive your SEO down. Do not pay anyone to backlink to you. You can and should exchange links with businesses you partner with. If you have a joint package offering, it only makes sense to connect to each other’s websites.
Be Active on Social Media
Social media offers many advertising options, but you can use your pages to link to your site even with a budget of $0. Facebook even includes a button that can be set up to go directly to your booking engine.
That said, the zero budget / zero effort approach isn’t recommended. Post—and boost—shareable content tailored to your guests (this is where knowing your audience comes in handy again). This can include contests, videos, discount codes, insider info, and more. Videos are especially popular with 51 percent of users more likely to share video than any other content type.
Intrigue the viewer so that they decide you’re worth checking out in more depth. Guests, once hooked, may even try and use your social media for customer service, so you need to be there to respond.
Social media isn’t the only place you can advertise. The internet has plenty of paid advertising opportunities, including social media, OTAs, metasearch channels, and more. If you can afford it, investing in digital advertising is worthwhile to gain wider reach. However, do your research first and determine if your audience is present where you’re marketing yourself. The most expensive option may not be best.
One of the most common models of online advertising is pay-per-click (PPC) where you’re only charged if someone clicks your ad. Your bid for those clicks (against competitors) determines your ranking. You control your budget with campaign spending limits and use targeting features to ensure that you reach the right audience. It’s an effective way to promote your website across the internet.
Take Advantage of Your Google Business Profile
A Google Business Profile is a free profile for your business that appears in Google search results and Google Maps and includes contact information, photos, other highlights about your property, and a link to your website. Claim your Google Business Profile and keep it updated with current, accurate information.
Google Business Profiles for hotels can include free booking links that take customers directly to your online booking engine. All you need is an integration between Google and your property management system to ensure that pricing and availability are always up to date.
Appear on OTAs
People may spot your hotel on an OTA, then head to your website for more information. This is called the Billboard Effect. Because these channels have a wider reach, more people see them, and if you’re on them, more people will see you. Put up a nice, shiny online billboard (listing) so that guests know where to look.
A strong property management system integrates with OTAs so that rates and availability are automatically updated across connected channels, preventing manual errors and double bookings. If a reservation is made on an OTA, it shows up in your system as well.
Email may seem old school these days, but it’s still a powerful marketing tool. According to Mailchimp, 20.44 percent of email campaigns in the travel and transportation industry are opened (as of 2019). It’s a reasonable number, and you can bring it up if you know what you’re doing.
Avoid spamming guests and ensure that your emails have useful content. The subject line is a clear, concise way to answer the question: how is this relevant to the guest? If you don’t have an answer, rethink the email. Special packages and amenities can encourage people to open your message…then click through to your website.
Start with previous guests when building your email list. They’ve proven they’re interested in you. It’s cheaper and easier to retain old customers than bring in new ones, so those who have already visited are a critical part of your customer base. If they booked through an OTA last time, see if you can guide them to your own website to book direct this time!
Consider adding a link to your property’s website in your email signature so that everyone you message sees it. The exposure here isn’t as obvious as it would be in an ad, but it’s worth doing. It’s free, so why not?
Get More Reviews
Building a base of positive reviews across different sites, such as Google, Tripadvisor, and OTA channels, increases credibility and makes it more likely that potential guests visit your own website. You can even add a widget to your website showcasing reviews or curate a selection of the most positive (once you have people on your site, you don’t want them leaving again to track down information).
In addition to making a good impression, having a presence on review sites is important for simply being seen. Many people start their travel research there, then dig deeper into their top choices. Remember the Billboard Effect you get from OTAs? That comes into play here as well.
Display links to your favorite review sites around your property and ask for reviews in post-stay emails. If your guests had an enjoyable stay, they’ll want to do something nice for you in return. One caveat: check in with your guests during their stay to ensure everything is going smoothly. That way, any online feedback is more likely to be positive.
Take Advantage of Local Travel Directories
Make sure you’re included in local online travel and tourism directories. You can do this even without a large budget as some listings are free. Though if you have more wiggle room, consider paying to increase your exposure. Using these directories boosts your website traffic by improving your local visibility and SEO (with credible backlinks!).
Bonus: Make the Most of Your Booking Engine
Now that your website generates lots of traffic, it’s time to convert those lookers into bookers. Your booking engine should be easy-to-use, up to date, and visually appealing. A booking engine with plenty of quality room photos builds credibility and excitement for the stay, while a booking engine without makes guests wonder what you’re hiding.
Convey necessary information without confusing your guest. Are special offers clearly indicated? Is the layout intuitive? Within the booking form, don’t ask too much information from the guest right away. The more effort they have to put into it, the more likely they will abandon the booking. Ask for only what you need and collect more details in your pre-stay guest messaging.
A good property management system should come with a secure, commission-free booking engine so that you do not have to pay anyone else when guests book direct. Fully integrated with your PMS, your booking engine always displays live rates and availability and automatically sends reservations to your system, preventing double bookings and saving you lots of time.
The internet is a busy, distracting place, and you have to put up a few billboards to drive traffic your way. The more active you are on other online channels, the more people will find your website and book a stay!